AHS: Freak show Ep. 3 “Edward Mordrake Part 1” Review
By Rob Jefchak
Sorry this review was put up so late but after watching this episode, I found myself getting lost in a little bit of research that proved rather fascinating, and I think others would find this info interesting too if they only knew…soon. In “Edward Mordrake Part 1” (the season’s first two parter), Ethel gets some bad news about her health and fears for the life that will await her son, Jimmy; without a strong parental hand to guide him. Meanwhile, a con man duo infiltrate the freak show in order to acquire a freak specimen (preferably dead) to sell to an oddities museum, Twisty the clown gets an unusual assistant and Ethel gives a ghostly warning of Edward Mordrake coming to visit and kill a freak if anyone performs on Halloween night.
When I first saw this episode, I was truly impressed to discover the show had crafted its own elaborate mythology surrounding this bizarre boogeyman/angel of death like figure known as Edward Mordrake. Imagine my surreal surprise when I learn that this two faced (literally) ghostly legend is in fact true and there is a fear this real life person will come if any freak performs on Halloween night. While this chips away at my disappointment at the prospect of such a uniquely crafted mythology, I find myself remaining impressed to see how a real life horror/freak story could be woven so intricately into this show’s current cast and story.
Sadly, the character doesn’t appear til far too late; despite a charmingly effective appearance by Wes Bentley (but then again this is still just part 1). Kathy Bates is the true star this time around, were given insight to her past, her present and her rather grim looking future by the time Mordrake comes a calling. The opening scene with her at the doctor’s office was easily the most moving scenes in the season’s entirety. Despite being one of the more famous named in this show’s cast, Bates has received the least amount of exposure since the show started. Even when her strong man psychopathic ex-husband Dale (Michael Chiklis) showed up, we only got a glimpse at her past or present life for that matter. Watching Dale and Ethel actually have a meaningful conversation was the strangest thing I’ve seen in this freak show yet…and that’s saying something, but it was a wonderfully welcomed surprise none the less.
Unfortunately, everything else is still trucking along at the same old pace and offering very little in new developments. The two headed siblings are still at each other’s conjoined throats, Elsa Mars is still an over acknowledged fallen star and Twisty the clown and his spoiled brat sidekick are performing the same old tricks. Even the introduction of the con man pair (a strange scientist and a phony fortune teller girl) don’t really shake things up enough to say “I really wanna see where they’re going with this.”
This whole episode for the most part felt like an appetizer to a bigger and (hopefully) greater meal; teasing us with little bits of scraps that fail to fill is up. Obviously we don’t want Mordrake’s whole set up to overstay it’s welcome on the first go, but a less boring and more engaging first part might have made the approach come off as more enticing. Bates performs beautifully and brilliantly though and this episode has changed my whole view on her character and her as a performer. Mordrake briefly gives us an idea of what he’s really all about and that actually does give me hope and interest to see part 2, just hope it’s not another appetizer when night finally falls on this Halloween horror 2-parter.